The bitter melon or balsam pear is a climbing plant that is most commonly grown in India and Asia. The fruit is similar to cucumbers and can be grown in Hungary, but the climate here makes it very difficult to grow - it has a hard time withstanding winter.
In traditional medicine, bitter melon is mainly used in the treatment of diabetes. It is also used to treat eczema, kidney stones, menstrual bleeding, rheumatism, psoriasis and constipation, and in some places it is used to stimulate milk production and blood flow around the uterus.
The bitter melon contains a wide variety of active ingredients, including insulin-like peptides (which help to lower blood sugar levels), minerals, vitamins and other antioxidants such as triterpenes, alkaloids and phenols.
The most researched area of bitter melon's effects has been the cardiovascular system. There have been numerous studies showing that bitter melon and its extracts can improve or help prevent a number of cardiovascular diseases.
Bitter melon contains active ingredients that can directly stimulate the production of fat. An enzyme - carntinin palmitol transferase - os responsible for the release of fatty acids into the mitochondria (the 'engine' of the cells where the 'burning' of broken down nutrients for energy occurs). The active ingredients in bitter melone stimulate the function of this enzyme in the mitochondira of muscle cells and liver cells, so the body can use fatty acids more efficiently. In this way, bitter melon can also have a fat-burning effect - and by reducing our fat mass, it also reduces the risk of various cardiovascular diseases.
Bitter melon extract may also have blood sugar regulating effects. On the one hand, this is due to the insulin-like peptides in bitter melon, which, when released into the blood stream, can mimic the action of insulin, thereby relieving the pancreas - insulin produced by our pancreas is essential for the use of sugar in the blood as energy. In addition, thanks to its antioxidant content, it can help the damaged pancreas to recover, and the active ingredients in bitter melon can also improve insulin perception, bringing relief to people with insulin resistance - insulin is not properly sensed by cells in insulin resistance.
The bitter melon extract contains very powerful antioxidants that protect against free radicals that damage cells and, in this context, has anti-inflammatory effects. It can therefore help to relieve the strain on the liver, kidneys and pancreas. It also has antimicrobial - anti-infective - properties.
As there is a very close link between insulin resistance, diabetes, inflammation and high cholesterol levels - one can be a trigger for the other and vice versa. Thus, if bitter melon extract improves insulin resistance, improves fat utilisation and reduces inflammation due to its antioxidant content, it can lower cholesterol and blood pressure and reduce the risk of many cardiovascular diseases.
No studies have been done to establish a recommended and safe dose. In the absence of studies, consult a doctor before consuming bitter melon extract and do not consume during pregnancy or breastfeeding.